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The Consistent Mule Deer Hunter

hi72 md pkendall 02Throughout our lives we encounter people that seem to have all the luck. We envy them, we’re jealous of them, we want to be like them, and we want to have their success. They may be a world-class athlete, businessman, classmate, coworker, family member, or the neighbor across the street. Maybe they’re somebody in the hunting industry. We see them over and over in magazines, TV shows, websites, or on social media. Every year, they are the guys that are grinning ear to ear behind a massive tangle of mule deer antlers. Over the years we watch their hair recede and the elements begin to take a toll on their weathered faces—deep wrinkles from all of that smiling over yet another monster mule deer.

As a young teenage hunter, my goal was to kill my first four-point buck, I wasn’t concerned with scores. That wasn’t much of thing back then—scores. Even then I recognized a pattern in most mule deer hunters. Once that first four-point was under your belt, you’d graduate to almost always killing a four-point. I also recognized the really big bucks were almost always killed by the same guys in deer camp.

Why do the same guys seem to kill the big bucks every year? Sure, you’ll always have the lucky draw that might put a hunter on the Paunsaugunt, the Arizona strip, or a fourth season tag in western Colorado. These are generally the hunters that only grace the pages of a hunting magazine once, maybe twice in a lifetime; these are generally not the hunters consistently harvesting mature bucks year after year.

 In reality, that’s all most hunters can hope for—be lucky enough to draw a handful of good tags throughout a lifetime of mule deer hunting. Maybe that’s not good enough for you? Your passion is mule deer hunting and your goal is to hunt and harvest mature, trophy-class mule deer every year.

 The fire and desire in you is burning, and its fuel is time and money. Without them, your mule deer dreams will become ashes before you can even warm your frozen toes.

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Beau Knutson's 284-inch World Record Archery Mule Deer

Since the first time I drew a tag I have had an obsession for big gnarly mule deer. From early summer to late fall all I can think about is out smarting big old muleys. This year started out much the same as every other year, but I had a buck in the back of my mind that I had first seen three years ago. I had come across this deer bedded in a slough bottom with two other bucks: one was about a 190” non-typical in full velvet, another was a 180” typical with dropping beams, and the last was a 150 class youngster. Archery season was open so I backed out and made a plan. I circled back down wind and snuck up behind a rock pile that would easily put me within range. When I got to the rock pile I poked my head out and ranged the deer at 25 yards. They were lying there totally unaware of my presence. I figured my best chance was to draw my bow and step out at full draw.  When I was standing at full draw the 190” velvet non-typical was still lying in his spot while the 180” typical was standing broadside at 25 yards. I made the decision and sent an arrow through the big typical. He was a great deer and I couldn’t pass up the shot. 

Beau Knutson's world record archery mule deer

Perfect patience--that’s what it took to get this deer. The treturous stalk was worth it. This toad tapes out at 284 3/8 SCI and 267 3/8 P&Y, placing it as the new archery world record non-typical muley.

After that day I was all tagged out and didn’t know anyone with a draw tag to go after the other buck so I kind of forgot about him for the rest of the year. The next season I came across the big non-typical while I was harvesting. I was hunting with archery tackle again and every time I found this deer he was bedded in areas where I couldn’t get within 100 yards with my bow, so I had to leave him alone. This was tough to do; he had put on a fair bit of horn and was now in the 215” range. I had many sleepless nights in October and November thinking some lucky hunter would stumble upon him in muzzle loader or rifle season. Luckily, the area he chose to call home was within 5 miles of my house and not that heavily hunted, so I kept an eye on him for the season and he made it through. 

In 2012 I got back on him early in the summer; we just happened to be coming home from my daughter’s ball game and I saw a deer way off in the distance that looked like it had a drop tine. I raced home, dropped off my wife, grabbed the spotting scope, and Mackenzie and I headed back to see if we could find him. We got back to where I had last seen him and there was nothing to be seen. We glassed back and forth and nothing, he had disappeared. We waited for about an hour and finally we caught a glimpse of him sneaking through a low spot trying to get to the other field. At first I thought it was a totally different deer but after he sky-lined himself I knew for sure he was the buck I was looking for, and he had pushed out an 8”drop tine off his right side! 

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THE MAGIC OF THE MULE DEER RUT

By Steve Alderman

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As we stood to leave, a monster 6 x 7 rose from his bed. The heavy, dark horned mule deer had been lying in the shadow of a Palo Verde waiting for the perfect time to breed one of the does that circled him on the dry desert floor. I froze in disbelief. This was the kind of deer I had heard many stories about when trying to catch the rut in the Sonoran Mexican desert. The deer and I stared at one another as I, ever so slowly, raised the gun to my shoulder. He started to turn to follow his harem of does out of range of my muzzleloader, but with the hammer pulled back, I put pressure on the trigger and the white smoke filled the crisp morning air. As I rounded the cloud of smoke, I could see the buck that up until this moment in time I had only dreamed of. He was lying motionless on the ground a mere 80 yards away. It was a surreal moment standing there looking, not only at my dream buck, but the dreams of so many trophy mule deer hunters across the country.

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